WikiLeaks describes itself as a “not-for-profit media organization” whose goal is to “bring important news and information to the public.” Launched in 2006, it is a loose network of individual leakers and advisers with a post office box at the University of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. A shadowy, mostly volunteer organization, WikiLeaks operates on many servers and under domain names around the world. Much of its work is conducted from a rented house in Iceland.
Australian Julian Paul Assange is WikiLeaks' editor in chief and only spokesman. He is in his late 30s, studied physics, math, and computer programming, all of which made him an expert computer hacker. Mr. Assange seems to travel constantly, although not to the United States, sometimes altering his appearance to avoid being recognized or possibly arrested.
The other prominent name connected to WikiLeaks is US Army Pfc. Bradley Manning. Manning was a military analyst in Iraq, where, despite his low rank, he had wide access to sensitive and classified information. Among other things, he allegedly downloaded and leaked video footage of an attack by a US Apache helicopter gunship that killed Iraqi civilians, including two employees of the Reuters news agency.
Manning was arrested in May and later charged with violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in conjunction with “transferring classified data onto his personal computer and adding unauthorized software to a classified computer system,” as well as “communicating, transmitting and delivering national defense information to an unauthorized source.
Amazon issued the following statement after booting Wikileaks from their server:
There have been reports that a government inquiry prompted us not to serve WikiLeaks any longer. That is inaccurate.
There have also been reports that it was prompted by massive DDOS attacks. That too is inaccurate. There were indeed large-scale DDOS attacks, but they were successfully defended against.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) rents computer infrastructure on a self-service basis. AWS does not pre-screen its customers, but it does have terms of service that must be followed. WikiLeaks was not following them. There were several parts they were violating. For example, our terms of service state that “you represent and warrant that you own or otherwise control all of the rights to the content… that use of the content you supply does not violate this policy and will not cause injury to any person or entity.” It’s clear that WikiLeaks doesn’t own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content. Further, it is not credible that the extraordinary volume of 250,000 classified documents that WikiLeaks is publishing could have been carefully redacted in such a way as to ensure that they weren’t putting innocent people in jeopardy. Human rights organizations have in fact written to WikiLeaks asking them to exercise caution and not release the names or identities of human rights defenders who might be persecuted by their governments.
We’ve been running AWS for over four years and have hundreds of thousands of customers storing all kinds of data on AWS. Some of this data is controversial, and that’s perfectly fine. But, when companies or people go about securing and storing large quantities of data that isn’t rightfully theirs, and publishing this data without ensuring it won’t injure others, it’s a violation of our terms of service, and folks need to go operate elsewhere.
We look forward to continuing to serve our AWS customers and are excited about several new things we have coming your way in the next few months.
— Amazon Web Services
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